Is domain investing worth your time?

Some time spent is wasted, but trying new approaches is essential.

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There was an interesting discussion on twitter this week about domain names and the time you spend investing. It kicked off with George Kirikos sharing details of his experiment listing domains on NameLiquidate. He was going to let the 5 domains expire. He managed to sell two of them for total proceeds of $ 16.38:

Shane Cultra chimed in about how this is a horrible use of time given the results. Kirikos responded by saying, “you have to put in the initial “setup” time for anything.”

They’re both right. A $ 16.38 return on just about any time spent is terrible, but you can consider the time spent an investment in testing.

You have to test things to see what works and what doesn’t. A lot of stuff I test returns nothing. Others return a goldmine. Savvy domain investors test, test, and test some more.

As a very relevant example, I also tested listing domains on NameLiquidate recently. I listed about 10 expiring domains and none of them sold.

This isn’t a surprise. I was about to let the domains expire, so I shouldn’t expect people to pay $ 9 or more for them. (Granted, on GoDaddy Auctions, they might sell as part of the expiry stream.)

A lot of what domain investors do doesn’t pay off. Other stuff pays off in spades. Sometimes it’s a matter of refining a system to make it work. NameLiquidate is a good idea and I will try it again.

I often think that domain investors undervalue their time. However, you can get satisfaction from these activities. I can look at reviewing drop lists as a waste of time for some weeks. Maybe I spend an hour looking at the lists and a couple of hours bidding, only to end up with nothing. But I have to admit, I don’t look at reviewing drop lists as just time spent. I kind of enjoy it. I enjoy kicking back on the porch with a glass of whiskey and searching for hidden gems.

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Where these 4 top VCs are investing in manufacturing

Even though it’s a vast sector in the midst of transformation, manufacturing is often overlooked by early-stage investors. We surveyed top VCs in the industry to gather their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing manufacturing.

Traditionally, manufacturing companies are capital-intensive and can be slow to implement new technology and processes. The investors in the survey below acknowledge the long-standing barriers facing founders in this space, yet they see large opportunities where startups can challenge incumbents.

These investors noted that the pandemic is bringing overnight change in the manufacturing world; old rules are being rewritten in the face of worker safety, remote work and the need for increased automation. According to Eclipse Ventures founder Lior Susan, “COVID-19 has exposed the systemic vulnerabilities inherent to manufacturing and supply chain and, as such, significant opportunities for innovation. The market was lukewarm for a long time — it’s time to turn up the heat.”

Lior Susan, Eclipse Ventures

What trends are you most excited about in manufacturing from an investing perspective?

Digital solutions that offer manufacturers greater agility and resilience will become major areas of focus for investors. For example, manufacturers still reliant on manual assembly were unable to build products when factories closed due to the coronavirus lockdown. While nothing would have kept production at 100%, the ability to quickly pivot and engage software-defined processes would have allowed manufacturing lines to continue building with a skeleton crew (especially important for any facility required to implement social distancing). Such systems have remote monitoring capabilities and computer vision systems to flag defeats in real-time and halt production if necessary.

Startups – TechCrunch

From flipping smartphones to advocating domain investing and development with Josh Reason The domain industry is a high-churn profession and industry consisting of a motley crew of individuals with varied personal and professional experiences. My latest podcast guest is no exception to the rule in all of the best ways and thoughts. From swinging tennis rackets to eventually flipping smartphones as source of income as a st…

Two interesting data points to look at when investing in one-word domain names When it comes to buying domain names as investment, there are a lot of things to consider. If I were to write a post about all the things you should consider, it would be really long and boring, plus there’s entire courses like DNAcademy that do a great deep dive into topics like this. That […]

London-based Freetrade closes €7.8 million crowdfunding for its investing app

Today UK-based fintech Freetrade, the smart app that makes investing easy for everyone, has defied the COVID-19 lockdown to raise €7.8 million from more than 8,000 people. Working with Crowdcube, the company exceeded its €1.1 million target in just 4:33 minutes from existing shareholders before going on to raise €7.8 million in five days. Freetrade’s fundraise is the largest equity crowdfunding campaign to be completed in the UK this year so far.

Freetrade, founded in 2017, is a challenger stockbroker bringing mobile-first, commission-free investing to the UK and Europe. Its mission? To enable ordinary people to grow their savings and benefit from the global economic growth of public companies. In the past 3 years, the startup has already built up 150,000 customers, and grown its team to 60 people. The app allows people to buy stocks like Amazon, Greggs, Tesla, Fevertree, and Apple and can use an ISA to invest up to around €18,000/year in a tax-efficient account. 

In 2019, the startup raised €13.7 million, including a Series A round via venture capital firm Draper Esprit. In addition, Freetrade now has over 10,000 shareholders following six crowdfunding campaigns with Crowdcube, who have been pivotal in the company’s growth so far.

“We’d always planned on crowdfunding in 2020 and the meteoric growth we’ve seen this year made us think that was still the right thing to do,” said Freetrade Founder and CEO Adam Dodds. “Still, it’s been incredible to see so many people invest in Freetrade despite the precarious situation the world is in. I think that says a lot about the belief people have in us to provide the best, most affordable and accessible investment service on the market.”

Luke Lang, Co-founder of Crowdcube added: “Freetrade has proven the power of their community to fuel its growth once again. To defy the COVID-19 lockdown and raise £7 millon from 8,559 people is astonishing and a testament to their vision, team and product. Their record-breaking raise, at a time of deep uncertainty, will undoubtedly provide inspiration to fellow entrepreneurs during these challenging times.”

The funds will be used to accelerate Freetrade’s growth, which has increased 500% in the past year to 150,000 customers. 


Where these 6 top VCs are investing in cannabis

The cannabis market was in the midst of a correction when the COVID-19 crisis hit and could emerge stronger than ever.

After a breakthrough period of growth, cannabis startups entered 2020 with depressed values and an uncertain future. Now, with millions sheltering in place, many companies are seeing unprecedented demand and growth opportunities as many states classified the industry as an essential business.

TechCrunch surveyed top investors focused on the cannabis market to gather their thoughts on current trends and opportunities. The results paint a stunning picture of an industry on the verge of breaking away from a market correction. Our six respondents described numerous opportunities for startups and investors, but cautioned that this atmosphere will not last long.

Three key takeaways

Cannabis is an essential business

Per the investors in our survey, most see the the pandemic as a turning point for cannabis thanks to increased demand and the industry’s designation as an essential business. Sean Stiefel, CEO of Navy Capital, notes that states will look to cannabis to help resolve budget deficits and said his firm is especially excited for legalization in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

“Cannabis went from illegal to essential in about two weeks flat,” said Matt Hawkins of Entourage Effect Capital. “Cannabis is now listed right alongside hospitals, doctors, grocery stores, gas stations and fire departments as an essential service.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Building and investing in the ‘human needs economy’

The entrepreneurial and investor focus of the last decade has largely been centered on increased convenience and consumerism, and has encouraged companies to prioritize scaling, with little care for how it affects stakeholders, employees, consumers and even the environment. We have been talking about a shift for some time, but now more than ever, it has become obvious that companies have to take humanity into account as they build and scale in this new paradigm.

The last 10 years of startup growth have been about building and investing in these “nice to haves.” We believe the next 10 years will be focused on building and investing in “need to haves,” and the greatest business opportunities will be found in what we at Human Ventures call The Human Needs Economy — products and services that have material impact on basic needs and livelihoods and address a core draw on a consumer’s time, money or energy. For 2020, we are focusing on solving problems within three categories that we believe will have a huge impact on the Human Needs Economy: health and wellness, the future of work and community.

As the first category of the Human Needs Economy, we outline the opportunity within health and wellness and specific areas in which we are excited to build and invest.

Health and wellness

Looking back at a decade focused on scaling nice to haves, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we are living with unaddressed health and wellness issues. And the statistics are staggering. In 2019, an estimated 47.6 million adults (19% of the country) had a mental illness, but only 43% received any kind of mental health care. When it comes to sexual and reproductive health, whole populations of minorities and underrepresented groups receive subpar care and face stigma around health issues. And we’re on track for a shortage of 120,000 doctors in the U.S. by 2030, a signal that these issues are set to get worse. (The United States’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how dangerous this is in a crisis.)

These challenges and others represent what we call the wellness deficit — the sum of human needs that have gone unmet in the areas of health and wellness. And even though it may seem that every block has a new boutique fitness studio popping up or everyone you know has the latest wearable to measure their sleep, we believe we are just at the starting line when it comes to making up ground and building great businesses that tackle these issues.

Below are 10 areas that are poised to make up this wellness deficit:

Startups – TechCrunch

Where top VCs are investing in healthcare B2B and infrastructure

Rising healthcare costs, an aging population, stifling regulations and the complexity of present-day technological offerings make the trillion-dollar healthcare industry ripe for disruption.

Not only are we finding new and innovative ways to get medical help, this global pandemic has led to explosive growth in telemedicine, digital devices and health-tracking apps — much of which needs a digital overhaul for doctors’ offices, insurance and the cumbersome HIPAA compliance.

While an infrastructure focus might not seem exciting, it is necessary to fix a broken, profit-driven system of paperwork and delays while the sick and suffering are saddled with mountains of debt.

Our current climate is the perfect illustration of just how critical new and innovative investments in the space truly are. It’s also a lucrative opportunity. According to Deloitte, healthcare infrastructure is expected to continue growing above pace into 2023.

But finding those disruptive technologies is the tricky part. In a recent survey, we asked VCs to evaluate the digital health sector; for today, we reached out to active investors to find out what they are seeing within the healthcare infrastructure landscape, what they are most interested in right now and where they think the industry is headed.

In this survey, we hear from:

Carl Byers, F-Prime Capital

Data and automation are the most interesting themes to me right now. We are only beginning to see the efficiencies and new capabilities opened up by getting the data organized and applying modern techniques. I’m more excited about the practical impact of robotic process automation (RPA) than I am enamored with AI, though both are exciting. I’d point to Notable Health in San Mateo as a company that has a great use of both technologies. I think we are about to embark on a new era of open data in healthcare where we finally solve the longstanding quest for interoperability with privacy mediated by patients. This will require a new developer ecosystem to come about built on new protocols rather than tired, legacy models. The key is for there to be demand pull from new services like virtual primary care (e.g. Firefly) or at-home solutions (like Ro or LetsGetChecked), instead of just a regulatory push (though that also will be important).

I’m spending time on RPA and open data, which is the key to improving healthcare B2B/infrastructure (see above). I think all markets have been overheated from a valuation standpoint, but if you find the right company, the opportunity is vast. If healthcare today is roughly 2x too expensive, getting data flowing is key to eliminating most of that waste. RPA can attack the administrative bloat while data exchange will allow doctors and patients to finally shop for the best value without the worry that something will be lost clinically in the translation.

Startups – TechCrunch

DoseBuy shares data on his first ten months investing in domain names As many of you know by now, there’s been a new domain investor named DoseBuy who has been sharing his adventures in domain investing since he started on Twitter. DoseBuy, whose real name is Johan, lives in Sweden and first caught my attention when he was tweeting a bunch about .CX domains. I was hard […]

As investing apps boom, Public doubles down on its social focus

Savings and investing apps are having a moment. While many startups are struggling in the wake of COVID-19 and its economic impacts, services that help regular folks save a bit more or invest their funds are seeing a demand boom.

Coming into 2020 on the back of a huge fundraising year for the fintech cohort, it’s a welcome result for investors and founders alike

Public, a startup whose app allows consumers to invest for free, is enjoying the updraft. So much so that it accelerated a feature release to help capitalize on changing consumer behavior. This morning let’s explore how quickly Public has grown in recent weeks, and why it’s doubling-down on the social side of its service, something that many of its peers lack.


Public launched out of beta last September and saw rapid consumer adoption right away, according to Jannick Malling, the startup’s co-founder and co-CEO. “We’ve been growing very, very quickly since September,” Malling told TechCrunch.

But Public’s service is a different from other investing apps that you might be familiar with. Users can buy fractional shares, invest in ETFs, and invest in themes for free, as you’d expect in 2020. But it also has a social element that makes its application more than just a place to take stock of your portfolio’s performance.

Users can display their investments and stocks that they are interested in on a public page (here’s one). They can also explain their investment choices in a public feed (the company’s name is rather on-the-nose).

Those social tools became more than a neat feature when the markets began to gyrate earlier this year. According to Malling, users were coming to app to handle the market’s ups-and-downs alongside their investing peers. Public’s users “are going through [the turbulence] together,” Malling told TechCrunch, adding that he and his company believes that investing through a downturn with fellow investors is a “a much better way” than hacking it alone.

But Public wanted to provide more social tools to its users, and quickly, once the markets stopped merely going up and began to bounce up and down instead. So the startup accelerated the rollout of private and group messaging, which it launched this morning.

Public had messaging capabilities on the roadmap before COVID-19, but the changing world “made the need so much more apparent,” Malling said. “Times of great uncertainty [are] really when you do need community,” the co-CEO explained in an interview. “You need people that you can have dialogue with.”

Screenshots of Public’s new messaging tool, via the company.

Community in trying times is welcome, and public-market investors are a famously chatty bunch, so messaging might prove to be a smart call for Public. From day trading chat rooms in the 1990s to today’s WallStreetBet denizens, folks putting money to work like to talk about where they are deploying capital and why. Public is not designed for day traders, mind, but that doesn’t mean its longer-term investing users won’t want to talk amongst themselves.

And there are more Public users than ever. Like its competitors (Robinhood, Wealthfront, M1 Finance, Betterment, it’s a list) Public has seen its userbase boom in recent weeks. According to the company, it saw “new customer growth” of +80% in April when compared to March’s results, along with a doubling (+100%) of trading activity and a tripling (+200%) of time spent in its app by users.

That recent growth has been organic, according to Malling. Noting that he views Public as a social network, Malling said that his company “predominantly” grows via organic channels, including user referrals, because it is an “app that gets better with friends on it.”

Looking ahead, TechCrunch asked the company if messaging would be followed up by other, socially focused features in the future. It will, according to Malling, who told TechCrunch the new messaging feature will be prominently featured in the app itself, which he felt was “indicative that [the new feature] is the start of something, and there will be many more exciting updates that we will roll out in the coming months.”

The social aspirations of Public are serious. Malling explained TechCrunch that folks today have Slack for work, for example, and Twitch and Discord for for gaming, but that “there isn’t really that social network for investing and that is ultimately what we think we can build with Public.”

Startups – TechCrunch